Chopin's Piano Sonata in B Flat Minor Opus 35 - Late reception 1940-1996



one writes sonatas or fantasias (what matter the name!); let one not forget music and the rest will succeed through our good genius...[103]


It is clear that Schumann felt that the sonata as a genre was becoming stale, and that it was used to a large extent as a vehicle for recognition among younger composers. Even he called for new forms, saying that the sonata "had run its course." Why then, when presented with a sonata of the originality, imagination, and beauty of musical ideas of Chopin's opus 35, was his reaction so negative? He was requesting that "...we should not have to repeat the same [form] year after year" - did Chopin's second piano sonata not fulfil this wish? One would have thought that at the lowest depths of the decline of the sonata, Schumann would have welcomed such an interesting work; a work that was a far cry from the "textbook style" sonatas of younger composers which were "scarcely born out of a strong inner compulsion."


Other views echoed that of Schuman. In 1843 the Leipzig publisher C.A. Klemm preferred to issue Schubert's Sonata D.459 as Fünf Klavierstücke, apparently because the title "sonata" had become old-fashioned.[104] In 1855 the French lexicographer Charles Soullier regarded the sonata as having "...died with the 18th century that produced it so abundantly."[105]


Notwithstanding these negative opinions, one view did remain constant in the Romantic era. The sonata was seen "...as an, if not the, ideal of both technical and musical achievement to which a composer might aspire - usually an ideal that related to Beethoven's image and one that could not be approached other than with the highest standards and greatest sincerity."[106] An important aspect of the Romantic sonata's association with high ideals was the constant quest for originality. This quest, already developed in the Classic era, was still present in the early-nineteenth century, when a reviewer wrote that a sonata could not be a mere routine; there must be some caprice, exploration, and originality, but not to excess. The numerous neutral or less favourable reviews of sonatas at the time repeatedly used the phrase-"good


[103] ibid., p. 38.

[104] ibid., p. 39.

[105] ibid., p. 39.

[106] ibid., p. 41.


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